Instruction manual design – know your target audience

May 10, 2011 Tags: , , ,

Whether it’s work instructions for a new manufacturing system, or a user manual for system software you’ve created, technical documentation should always be pitched at a level the non-technical user can understand. This is as true for specialist industrial hardware as it is for consumer products.

Whenever you design a new product it should have a full suite of technical documentation. Whether you release it in traditional print form or as a CD-ROM, it should include data sheets, installation guide, release notes and a system administration guide. Underlying all this should be a simple user guide with easy-to-understand work instructions, with links back to the full instruction manual.

Design engineers often begin by mapping out a documentation plan, defining the scope, size, required resources and delivery format of the technical documentation they are preparing. Technical desktop publishing software is available to make this job easier, although as with VHDL design, the layout is only half the battle. You need to ensure the written content and graphics are clearly presented and understandable, with short sentences in plain English, and an easily consulted index. When someone is beating their head in despair because the software doesn’t make sense, the instruction manual should enable them to find a useful solution quickly and easily.

Whether it’s an online document or published in traditional print form, your technical documentation should be easy to read. Use a Plain English approach, with short paragraphs separated by spaces, and a font size that’s easy on the eye. We at Enventure Technologies offer a full range of technical documentation services, from simple work instructions to user guides incorporating CAD animation.

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